WTW: What Are Grant Fisher’s Medal Odds & Mary Cain Tries The Triathlon

The Week That Was in Running, February 28 – March 6, 2022

By Robert Johnson
March 9, 2022

Each week, we try to make the sport more fun to follow by putting the prior week’s action in perspective for you. Past editions of our Week That Was weekly recap can be found here. Got a tip, question or comment? Please call us at 844-LETSRUN (538-7786), email us, or post in our forum.  

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If you missed our extensive coverage of the 2022 Tokyo Marathon or Grant Fisher‘s 26:33 AR in the 10,000 at the The Ten, catch up now as we don’t repeat ourselves.

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Grant Fisher’s 26:33 Was Shocking To Some, But Should It Have Been?

The big news of the week came in California where Grant Fisher destroyed Galen Rupp’s American record in the 10,000 by running 26:33.84, edging teammate and Olympic 5000 silver medallist Moh Ahmed (26:34.14) in the process.

In our post-race analysis, we said that Fisher has come a long way in a short period of time. At the beginning of March 2021, his pb was for 5000 was 13:11.68. On Sunday night, he ran his last 5000 in 13:10.

But taking a step back, Fisher’s rise isn’t that shocking. If you were having a theoretical discussion about what traits would produce the fastest American distance runner in history, you’d describe someone exactly like Grant Fisher. As a high schooler, he was only the second American boy ever to win two national XC titles (Dathan Ritzenhein was the other) and he also broke 4:00 in the mile. And with an April 22 birthday, Fisher did it as someone (relatively) young for his grade. Fisher is basically Ritzenhein with better speed and without the injury problems.

Fisher’s talent jumped off the page so much that we wrote a feature on him as a junior in HS: LRC Meet Grant Fisher: The Foot Locker Champ And 4:02 Miler Is Only A Junior, But He’s Already Wise Beyond His Years.

On Friday, once I learned that the pacing lights were going to be set for 26:44 — hey BTC, would it have killed you guys to promote that you were attacking the American records so fans could know to tune in? — it became clear to me that Rupp’s record had days to live.

Regardless, 26:33 is fast. However, can I remind you the world record is 26:11.00 and likely would be even faster if Joshua Cheptegei hadn’t had to run that race in high 70-degree temps.

I thought it would be interesting to see how the American record has compared to the world record in the 10,000 over time. Here you go.

American Record World Record Difference  (Seconds) Percentage Diff.
28:24.4 Billy Mills 1964 28:16.0 Ron Clarke 8.8 0.52%
28:17.6 Billy Mills 1965 27:39.4 Ron Clarke 38.2 2.30%
28:08.0 Greg Fredericks 1972 27:39.4 Ron Clarke 21.6 1.30%
27:58.2 Frank Shorter 1972 27:39.4 Ron Clarke 18.8 1.13%
27:51.4 Frank Shorter 1972 27:39.4 Ron Clarke 12 0.72%
27:43.6 Steve Prefontaine 1974 27:30.8 David Bedford 12.8 0.78%
27:39.4 Craig Virgin 1979 27:22.47 Henry Rono 16.9 1.03%
27:29.16 Craig Virgin 1980 27:22.47 Henry Rono 6.69 0.41%
27:25.61 Alberto Salazar 1982 27:22.47 Henry Rono 3.14 0.19%
27:20.56 Mark Nenow 1986 27:13.81 Fernando Mamede 6.75 0.41%
27:13.98 Meb Keflezighi 2001 26:22.75 Haile Gebrselassie 51.23 3.24%
26:59.60 Chris Solinsky 2010 26:17.53 Kenenisa Bekele 42.07 2.67%
26:48.00 Galen Rupp 2011 26:17.53 Kenenisa Bekele 30.47 1.93%
26:44.36 Galen Rupp 2014 26:17.53 Kenenisa Bekele 26.83 1.70%
26:33.84 Grant Fisher 2022 26:11.00 Joshua Cheptegei 22.84 1.45%

MB: Men’s 10,000 AR Progression

Fisher’s time wasn’t just an American record; it was the fastest 10,000 ever by someone born outside of Africa. African-born athletes hold the world record in every men’s distance event from the 800 through the marathon, and the trend had been that the percentage gap between the world record and best non-African performance generally grows as the distance increased. Fisher’s time temporarily reverses that trend.

Event World Record Non-African Born Best Diff % Slower
800 1:40.91 David Rudisha 1:41.73 Seb Coe 0.82 0.81%
1500 3:26.00 Hicham El Guerrouj 3:28.32 Jakob Ingebrigtsen 2.32 1.13%
Steeple 7:53.63 Saif Saaeed Shaheen 8:00.09 Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad 6.46 1.36%
5000 12:35.36 Joshua Cheptegei 12:48.45 Jakob Ingebrigtsen 13.09 1.73%
10,000 26:11.00 Joshua Cheptegei 26:33.84 Grant Fisher 22.84 1.45%
13.1 57:31 Jacob Kiplimo 59:13 Julien Wanders 1:42 2.96%
Marathon 2:01:39 Eliud Kipchoge 2:04:56 Kengo Suzuki 3:17 2.70%

For fun, I decided to come up with a similar chart for the women. I totally ignored the 800 as there are too many doped/intersex athletes. For other events, I’m ignoring everyone that was Chinese/Eastern European as I’m assuming they were doping, as well as anyone else who served or is serving a doping suspension. It produced an interesting results in the women’s 5000. Who knew that American Karissa Schweizer is the fastest female non-African-born runner in history that hasn’t served a doping suspension?

Event World Record Non-African Born Best Diff % Slower
1500 3:50.07 Genzebe Dibaba 3:54.50 Laura Muir 4.43 1.93%
Steeple 8:44.32 Beatrice Chepkoech  8:57.77 Courtney Frerichs 13.45 2.57%
5000 14:06.62 Letesenbet Gidey 14:26.34 Karissa Schweizer 19.72 2.33%
10,000 29:01.03 Letesenbet Gidey  30:01.09 Paula Radcliffe 60.06 3.45%
13.1 1:02:52 Letesenbet Gidey 1:05:40 Paula Radcliffe* 2:48 4.45%
Marathon 2:14:04 Brigid Kosgei 2:15:25 Paula Radcliffe 1:24 1.04%

*Radcliffe’s run came on a non-record-eligible course at the 2003 Great North Run

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Messageboard Post Of The Week / Should We Expect Fisher To Medal Now?

Even though we all know super shoes exist, the times 12:53/26:33 are hard to ignore. Those PBs certainly have created expectations that Fisher will medal. Messageboard poster “Kobbs Hessler” started a thread, “Grant Fisher vs Jakob at 5000, who ya got?”

Hold on people. Fisher is very good but the guys that have been winning medals lately are even better.

Do I think Fisher has a shot at a medal this summer in Eugene? Most definitely. But do people realize how competitive things are right now? Let me share with you my favorite messageboard post of the week, which came from the Fisher vs Jakob thread and was made by John Wesley Harding:

It’s an exceedingly difficult task at this point, but in trying to rank the world’s top 5k guys currently I think Fisher is probably in the 6-10 range.

Let’s say, imprecisely:

1. Joshua Cheptegei
2. Jakob Ingebrigtsen
3. Selemon Barega
4. Berihu Aregawi
5. Jacob Kiplimo
6. Mohammed Ahmed
7. Grant Fisher

Then you have a whole host of guys who would probably take issue with this assessment, and could reasonably beat Fisher on the right day without any big surprise:

Hagos Gebrhiwet
Yomif Kejelcha
Getnet Wale
Lamecha Girma
Nicholas Kimeli
Paul Chelimo
Mohamed Katir
Justyn Knight
Birhanu Balew

His last two races (BTC time trials) have been spectacular though. He could be even better than I’m giving him credit for, and he’s a definite medal contender.

I LOVE that post. It’s not perfect (I think I’d have Fisher ahead of Ahmed and Kiplimo as after all Fisher just did beat the Olympic silver medallist Ahmed in two straight races), but it shows how competitive things are right now. Two-time Olympic medallist Paul Chelimo is in his second tier of 5000 racers. That’s disrespectful, though if it is a time-trial race, I get it.

In the 10,000, Fisher faces an equally tough task. In the Olympic 10,000, four guys beat Fisher and all four are still better than him on paper. Remember, the Olympics came down to the last lap with eight guys in contention. When it was over, three guys were way better than Fisher — more than two seconds ahead — with fourth, Berihu Aregawi, just ahead of Fisher.

Top 5 2021 Olympic 10,0000 results
1. Selemon Barega 27:43.22
2. Joshua Cheptegei 27:43.63 
3. Jacob Kiplimo 27:43.88
4. Berihu Aregawi 27:46.16
5. Grant Fisher 27:46.39

Here’s why all four of those guys are still better than Grant Fisher.

Selemon Barega – He ran 12:43 in 2018 at age 18 without super shoes. At 22, he’s officially almost three years younger than Fisher. Olympic gold hasn’t ruined his motivation as he’s run 7:30, 7:31, and 7:34 this year.

Joshua Cheptegei – The only guy on the list officially older than Fisher but he’s the 5000 and 10,000 WR holder and Olympic 5k champ. Olympic gold doesn’t seem to have killed his motivation as he just ran 26:49 last week on the roads.
Jacob Kiplimo – His endurance is out of this world. At 5k, I’d give Fisher the edge but not at 10k. Kiplimo is the WR holder at 13.1 and just won the RAK Half in 57:56 on February 19. Remember, last year, he also ran 26:33. However, he did it in shitty conditions, largely alone, without wavelight and in the old spikes.

Berihu Aregawi – He just turned 21 last week and opened his season at 7:26.20.

A medal for Fisher certainly could happen, even gold. Not everyone doubles at Worlds (no Ethiopians did the 10,000/5000 double at the Olympics) and guys can get injured (Aregawi hasn’t raced since January 28). 

The biggest advantage Fisher has is he doesn’t have to worry about making the US team (there aren’t three guys in the US likely to come close to him) or worry about making a living. He can just focus on getting ready for Eugene as Fisher is handsomely compensated by Nike and has a Stanford degree to fall back on after graduation. That’s not true for some of his competitors. Making the Ethiopian team is super hard and prize money is important to them as they had better make their money now. This weekend, I took an Uber in DC and my driver was a former Ethiopian runner who raced for a Japanese corporate team. He told me a 4th placer from a fairly recent Olympics was also driving Uber in DC.

If all four of those guys are in the 10k at Worlds and in form, Fisher’s medal chances are likely less than 30%.

If that sounds harsh, let me explain my logic. I’d put Cheptegei’s odds of a medal at 90%. Kiplimo at 75%. If I put Barega, the reigning Olympic champ, also at 75%, that means that the odds of either Aregawi or Fisher medalling combined can max out at 60%. The odds that a healthy Fisher beats a healthy Aregawi are well under 50%. I’d say it happens 1 out of 3 times. So the final odds would be:

Cheptegei – 90%
Kiplimo – 75%
Barega – 75%
Aregawi – 40%
Fisher – 20%

And that’s not even accounting for anyone else in the field or new African talents that could emerge between now and July.

Now US fans, don’t let those odds disappoint you. The reality is, all of those guys may not even be in form in July (Aregawi hasn’t raced since January 28th). And the good news is even if Fisher enters in every global final he runs with a 20% chance of medalling, there are a lot of global finals coming up: 2022 Eugene, 2023 Budapest, 2024 Paris, and 2025 TBD. Looking at just the 10,000, if Fisher takes four cracks at a global final with a 20% chance of medalling, the odds that he medals at least once is nearly 60% (59.4%). If he has the same 20% chance in the 5000 and does that 4 times, the odds of him entering 8 global finals and medalling at least once are 83.2%.

And I think his odds of a medal in the 5,000 are significantly higher than the 10,000 if the field is watered down like it was in the Olympics without Barega, Aregawi or Ingebrigtsen. Fisher has beaten the Olympic 5,000 silver medallist in back to back races.

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Quote of the Week (That wasn’t quote of the day)

“I’ve been a national champion in my head a thousand times. And so this competition didn’t necessarily scare me. Everyone’s human, just like me.”

Nico Montanez talking the Florida Times-Union after winning the 2022 Gate River Run 15k (and US 15k champs) in 43:10, one of the few US road races that was held continuously through the pandemic.

Montanez pushed hard at the base of Hart Bridge and never looked back. In the women’s race, Emily Sisson took off early and dominated in 43:10, picking up $15,000 in the process as she got an extra $5,000 for winning the battle of the sexes.

Six male runners picked up a nice career scalp as Galen Rupp, who did a lot of leading, only ended up 7th in 43:31. Some on the messageboard are using that as a sign to write Rupp off. That’s a huge mistake. Rupp isn’t running a spring marathon. There is no need for him to be in supreme shape right now — he wants to peak at Worlds in July.

Rupp was 8th in the Olympics and 2nd in Chicago last year. At 35, I highly doubt he has suddenly lost it. Many seem to think he caught a cramp at Gate River. The good news for Rupp is he’s healthy enough to race and will race again in two weeks at the NYC Half.

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Stat of the Week

23rd – place (out of 55 finishers) where Mary Cain finished in a sprint triathlon on Saturday. Cain was hoping to finish in the top three to get her “pro card.”

If you are looking for a silver lining, there are some. Cain was only 12 seconds behind the eventual winner on the swim (11:10 vs 11:22) and 12 seconds back on the run (18:24 vs 18:37) but she was absolutely horrific on the bike (one of the five worst in the race), with her time of 34:25 being more than three minutes off what the race winner did (31:16). Afterwards, Cain wrote on Strava, “Who knew getting into and out of shoes was hard?! First hard effort like this and learned a lot. Like packs make a big difference.”

In the men’s race, Andy Trouard, the 2018 NCAA 3000 champ, got the win.

The women’s winner was 15-year-old Clara James-Heer of Michigan. Now a high school sophomore, she sports running pbs of 4:57/10:25 for 1600/3200 and 16:52.83 for 5000 — a time she ran in 7th grade.

More: MB: Mary Cain to race triathlon this weekend
*How Andy Trouard Went From Northern Arizona’s #4 Man In Cross Country To A National Champion On The Track
*NAU’s Andy Trouard Stuns Justyn Knight in NCAA 3K as Karissa Schweizer Completes the 3K/5K Double

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Husband-Wife Marathon World Best Is Broken

Are you a marathoner? Are you married? Has your spouse also run a marathon?

Add up your PBs.

I can virtually guarantee you it’s higher than 4:26:30.

Race Results Weekly’s David Monti pointed out that’s the combined time of Kengo Suzuki and Mao Ichiyama at the Tokyo Marathon on Sunday, setting a world best for fastest husband-wife marathon in the same race. Mao Ichiyama ran 2:21:02 to place sixth in the women’s race while Kengo Suzuki ran 2:05:28 to place 4th in the men’s race.

The previous record was 4:27:05 when Kenyans Purity Cherotich Rionoripo and Paul Kipchumba Longyangata ran 2:20:55 and 2:06:10 to both win in Paris in 2017.

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Stephen Mokoka Sets 50k World Record

At the second Nedbank #Runified Breaking Barriers 50K over the weekend, South Africa’s Stephen Mokoka set a 50k world record of 2:40:13 after going through the marathon in 2:15:22. That broke the old record of 2:42:07, which was set in the same race last year by Ethiopia’s Ketema Bekele Negasa, even though this year’s race was much warmer than last year’s. The 37-year-old Mokoka has a 2:07:40 marathon pb from 2015 and a 59:36 half pb (2020). Ketema Bekele Negasa has a 2:11:07 marathon pb. 

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Recommended Reads

To see our favorite reads from other weeks, go here.

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Quotes Of The Day And Last Week’s Home Pages

To see the quotes of the day from last week or last week’s home page or any home page, go to our archive page.

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Got a tip, question or comment? Please call us at 844-LETSRUN (538-7786), email us or post in our forum.

Talk about Fisher’s medal odds on our messageboard. MB: Grant Fisher vs Jakob at 5000, who ya got? 

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